‘A Language Is Like a Garden’: Shloyme Davidman and the Yiddish Communist School Movement in the United States jennifer young
In a short story published in the Yiddish monthly Der funk (Spark), Shloyme Davidman tells the story of a young boy named Motl at the communist summer camp, Kinderland (Children’s Camp). Motl catches a bird and keeps it in a cage, but he forgets to put a blanket on the cage one cold night, and the bird dies. However, the counsellor turns Motl’s mistake into a larger learning opportunity, telling him, ‘Motl, pioneers, workers and children don’t cry. We are carrying out a struggle, and when we lead the world, all will be free, a soviet world, where we will make warm houses for all of the birds . . . ‘.1 The highly didactic tone of Davidman’s story was typical of Yiddish communist pedagogy at the time. In Davidman’s stories, children learned important moral messages, imparted by adult authority figures, which represented a rigid social reality and a firm teleology: children, like adults, struggled under their current conditions, but, if they worked together, children and adults together could have a brighter future, like those in the Soviet Union.